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Pepys House, Brampton

Alec Samuels

Pepys house was built about 1600, a sort of yeoman’s farmhouse. It was acquired by Robert Pepys, bailiff to the Montagus, probably some time after his marriage in 1630. Pepys probably lived there as a schoolboy with his uncle Robert in the 1640’s and 1650’s.
Uncle Robert died 5 July 1661, having no children of his own, Pepys being “sorry in some respect, glad in my expectations in another respect” (6 July 1661). The house was left to Pepys’ father, brother of Robert, for life, the remainder to Pepys, and one half of the estate, which provided a small income. Clearing up the uncle Robert’s estate took Pepys a week (8-13 July 1661) and again nearly another week (16-19 July 1661). Robert’s stepsons entered a caveat against the will on behalf of their mother Anne, who had been left nothing, though the caveat was later withdrawn. The dispute over the one half of the estate was finally settled by agreement. There was a dispute with another brother of Robert, namely Thomas, the heir at law, and his son Thomas, over the copyholds, the conveyance having been lost, and a manorial court hearing was held, which Pepys won (16 September 1663).

Pepys’ father and mother and brother and sister Paulina lived in the house from 1661. In assessing his “condition’, i.e. estate and assets, at the end of 1661, Pepys took satisfaction in what was coming to him from Brampton when his father died – which God defere [sic] (31 December 1661). “But by my uncle’s death, the whole care and trouble of all and settling all lies upon me; which is very great because of law-suits…” (31 December 1661). Being a most meticulous person Pepys kept full and careful records, and often speaks of his Brampton account and papers.
From time to time Pepys visited Brampton, usually in conjunction with a visit to Magdalene College, Cambridge, and to Lord and Lady Sandwich at Huntingdon. The journey took all day, with a very early morning start, to get there from London; and the cost was not inconsiderable. Sometimes Pepys took Elizabeth and her maid, and left them at the house when he returned to London. Elizabeth did not get on well with Pepys’ father (13 June 1 67, 2 April 1 668, 24 May 1 668, 3 June 1668).
When in 1667 the perceived threat of invasion from the Dutch grew serious Pepys sent his wife and father to Brampton with his gold £1,300, to bury it in the garden (13June 1667). He had previously considered (24 October 1666) dividing his property into three parts, one part to go to Brampton, but had not carried out this plan (24 October 1666). When he came to retrieve the gold his wife and father could not at first tell where it was and there was much perspiration and anger and fear, but by and by they found it, sifting the earth until late at night, Pepys fearful that neighbours might see what was going on and come and steal (“prevent”) some of it. In the event most of the gold was found, though some 20-30 pieces were lost (10-11 October 1667).
Sister Paulina, “Pall”, lived in the Brampton house until her marriage to John Jackson in February 1668, when she moved to Ellington, Huntingdonshire; and her father went to live with them, the mother having died in 1667. Pepys urged his father not to “unfurnish the house for Pall, because I think I may have occasion myself to come thither” (29 August 1668). The house was let in 1668 until 1677, when the family moved back into the house, Paulina having two sons. In 1680 Pepys’ father died, also John Jackson. Pepys spent a month at the house in 1680, supervising repairs, as his father had not maintained the house in good order. In 1680 Pepys allowed his sister-in-law Esther St Michael (sister to his deceased wife Elizabeth) to live in the house with her two sons, her husband Balty being away in the navy. She left in 1682. Paulina died in 1689 and the house was then let on a year by year lease. The house passed by will to nephew John Jackson (younger son of Paulina) on Pepys’ death in 1703, and on his death in 1723 to his son John Pepys Jackson.
For many years, from 1661, Pepys had it in mind ultimately to retire to the house. in 1668 he was at first opposed to letting when Pauline and his father moved out “because of having it to retire to ourselfs (25 May 1668). The prospect of “redundancy” was always with Pepys, there were at least two occasions when he was in serious trouble and could have been dismissed, and the prospect of “retreat to Brampton”, a “bolt hole”, was always with him (8 October 1666), “where I might leave peaceably and study and pray for the good of the kind and my country” (19 October 1666). “I bless God that I am like to have such a pretty place to retire to” (9 October 1667). Alterations were carried out in 1662. Pepys planned further improvements, but was reluctant to do so whilst the dispute with the family over Uncle Robert’s will remained unsettled; “but it is, however, very well for a country house, being as any little thing in the country” (11 October 1 662). In 1680 on the death of his father he put the house back into repair. But he never carried out the extensive additions and improvements he once planned.
In the event on his retirement in 1668 Pepys himself never went to live at Brampton, as he had planned in the 1660’s. His wife had died many years before. He loved London and remained in London. Eventually went to live at Clapham with Will Hewer.
Subsequent history
The subsequent history of the house is unclear. At some time in the C l8th it was absorbed or re-absorbed into the Sandwich estate. Perhaps it was bought by the earl; perhaps it was taken in satisfaction of a debt; perhaps Uncle Robert, a bailiff to the Sandwich estate, had only acquired a limited right in the 1630’s and the property reverted. John Pepys Jackson died a bachelor in 1780. There is no documentary evidence in existence. In 1926 the earl leased the house for 99 years at £6 a year to the Pepys Club, and the lease is now vested in trustees under a charitable trust. The building is listed grade I.